A tale of two Dens

By James Keller

The new Den is actually Max’s reincarnate with a few twists.

The Students’ Union has brilliantly redesigned our old favourite hangout. At first the décor seems sterile, although later it proves quite inviting and comforting. Booths and benches are available both upstairs and downstairs with a patio that could rival the Ship and Anchor’s. The two-level layout allows for two different DJs and gives the illusion that the bar is bigger while the "red room" provides some quiet space. The new dance floor grooves extremely well with the addition of a stylish stage comparable to the old Republik’s stage. The most noticeable addition to the Den is the washrooms, which are located inside, yes, inside the actual bar. The washrooms consist of stainless steel stalls and trough-like urinals–or so I’m told. Currently, the Den is closed during the day on weekends but the patio, accessed through the Black Lounge, will be open as long as weather permits.

Unlike pricey downtown menus, the Den is priced for students. An average meal with a soft drink costs between $8 and $10 with a $3.50 minimum charge per person. The Den offers a full menu while upstairs, the Black Lounge menu is more limited. Basically, it’s the old Max’s menu with the addition of some new and delightfully tasty appetizers.

However, watch out for grease. Several appetizers are deep-fried, so healthy eaters should try the new array of vegetarian dishes or salads.

Nighttime escapades will also return, especially on Thursdays with $6.50 pitchers. Speaking of drinks, prices are relatively cheap and the Den offers a wide variety of draft beer.

A more than pleasant surprise is that the service is good, contrary to what we traditionally expect from the SU staff. On each occasion I’ve been to The Den, the service has been very prompt and consistent, even when it was busy.

Overall, I give kudos to the SU on a job well done and I can’t wait until a few more Thursdays give the Den the worn carpet-stained look and familiar smell we all know and love.

-Lindsay Lambert

     The Students’ Union spent your money–and piles of it–on renovating the campus bar, the Den. Like all SU projects, although I’m sure they tried really, really hard, they’ve come up short. Again.

As a nightclub, the Den actually doesn’t fair too poorly. The music is top notch and the new renovations give it that same elegant Ikea look which flows over the rest of the expansion craze.

However, under any other characteristics, the Den fails miserably.

First, there’s the lacklustre–and sometimes nonexistent–service. Would you like to wait 20 minutes to have your order taken? We did. Would your table of eight like two menus? Check again. Don’t you love being waited on once and then ignored through the rest of the evening? We sure did.

Anyone who’s seen Max’s during a slightly busy rush knows this all too well. The slow, apathetic staff troll around with nary a care for the clientele. Otherwise, a single server is saddled with a dozen tables-hardly the opportunity to worry about service.

The menu is a little better. Everything’s more expensive, but you can expect that given the extravagant renovations.

Everything also seems a little backwards. The Black Lounge (upstairs), has the normal bar selection–pizza and nachos. The Den (downstairs and what people would consider the bar), has a full dinner menu. With plenty of seating and a much lighter and more mellow atmosphere upstairs–and considering it’s called the Black Lounge–I would much rather sit and eat my Fajitas upstairs around the comfort of the fireplace. It seems like there wasn’t much planning involved before the construction process, as with all things SU.

Finally, despite the full Max’s menu and contrary to, again, what logic would tell you, it seems that the Den was not even intended as a hot dinner spot at all. At 7:30 p.m., a reasonable time to be grabbing your evening meal, we were asked to start a tab (with a credit card to make sure we didn’t dine-and-dash), or pay as we go, instead of running a bill. It’s an understandable move, I suppose, as they don’t want people, as it shifts to bar mode, to skip out on the bill, but this is just another poor planning decision. It’s a hassle. It’s unintuitive. And it’s not worth it.

If you’re expecting the Den, you’ll be disappointed. The run down look which gave the Den its character and made the name fit so well, has been washed away for a cleaner, more posh look a la The Palace. This is nice and all, but clearly not for those who frequented the Thursday night hoopla in the real Den. On the other hand, if you’re expecting Max’s, you’ll be disappointed yet again. While the menu and snail-paced service are still there, it’s not a restaurant and was never designed to be.

The food is good and still reasonably priced, and the Den does a pretty good job as a nightclub. But on the whole it still falls short time and time again. But as Mr. “Friendly Competition” himself, Bill Gates, might put it, tough shit. You have no choice.

-James Keller

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